Resist temptation

Summertime DIY projects are an awful thing, and not just for their interference with pool time.  This beautiful time of year with its warmth and sunshine is also the time when nurseries and box stores try and clear out their inventory, and as long as I’m at the store picking up lumber and sandpaper I might as well take a stroll through the plants to see what’s going on.  So far an oleander and golden arborvitae have joined the screw and hinge purchases, and under the relentless strain of repeated returns to the store it’s no surprise my resistance wears thin and a small eucalyptus or succulent falls in the cart too.  Some people buy chocolate, I buy plants, and at a midsummer 50% off sale I run the risk of getting fat.

The DIY store is not a nursery.  The plants are not well cared for and are right in there with washing machines, pipe, and soda coolers…… but sometimes you get lucky.  Sometimes you don’t though, and it bothers me that they sell diseased and dying plants such as these ‘Tropicana’ cannas.

virus in canna leaf

Canna ‘Tropicana’ should be a gaudy blend of yellow, pink, and red stripes on a purple leaf, without breaks and mottling of color. You’re looking at canna virus.

I would guess the store doesn’t know and doesn’t much care to know but the grower should, and to send out plants looking this bad (and to then sell them for nearly $15!) seems irresponsible.  Reputation must not matter much as long as the bottom line keeps looking good.

diseased cannas

Back in the day people went crazy over the wild colors which would show up in virused tulips….. but they learned the lesson and dumped the plants. ‘Tropicana’ growers didn’t get the memo, and each year I see these deformed offerings.

I would think if it’s your business you would want to send out the healthiest plants possible, and I’ve seen several online sources openly discuss the canna virus struggle, but some don’t seem to care.  ‘Tropicana’ can be a really cool plant…. if not entirely tasteful 🙂

healthy tropicana canna

Tropicana out by the mailbox last year. Maybe not virus-free (I’m back and forth on whether or not it’s clean) but it sure looks better than the store version.

I like my cannas and try to toss anything that looks suspicious, but I hate to see the pros doing a worse job than me.

I’d also hate to leave on a down note so here’s another lapse in judgment that you might enjoy.  Santa Rosa is an excellent online source for plants, and they run some amazing sales, here are the goodies which arrived last month after I fell victim to their online summer clearance.

plants from Santa Rosa gardens

I wasn’t even aware of my heuchera addiction until this showed up. My collection of one plant just increased by a dozen more….

The sale is still going on by the way, and if you use the coupon code of JULY10 when checking out, another $10 will come off your $35 minimum order… that’s practically giving plants away and I’m not going to go there (but I would never judge others who lack my amazing will power!)


Hanging out on the Deck

The deck planters are starting to look good. The tropicals love the heat and the annuals have settled in. Last year I had some big grasses in the three main planters, but the winter was too much and they didn’t make it,  so this year I returned to my roots and stuffed the pots full with my favorite all summer plantings.
‘Tropicana’ canna, black sweet potatoes, million bells, and a New Guinea impatient fill this pot. Some ‘red rocket’ snapdragons fill in the back. I’ve never done the snapdragons before but right now they look great….. We’ll see how they last in the heat.
annual container planting
For some reason red was the color of choice this year. Usually I don’t buy most of the plantings and just use over wintered stuff, but this year I treated myself to a nursery run. 33% off helps and if you buy it all on one day I guess a red mood will give you red plantings.
This one has similar plants with the cannas replaced by a nice new coleus and burgundy fountain grass in the center.
annual container planting
The aloe pot here was overwintered, but the red blooms on the dipladenia are new. Not to rub it in but I think I found it for about $2 at a local greenhouse clearance and I hope to overwinter it for next year.
annual container planting
Here’s a new coleus, overwintered geranium, and a pot of blue fanflower/red celosia combo. The celosia is ‘new look’ celosia and I really like the bright flowers and dark foliage.
annual container planting
Herbs have a spot too; parsley, rosemary and a pot of annual vinca for color.
annual container planting
Here’s one pot that I’m not yet thrilled with. It should have a pink ‘Alice Dupont’ mandevilla climbing up the bamboo stakes, but for some reason she won’t grow…. She blooms well, but won’t grow. It was an impulse buy at a box store and looked great, but is no bigger today than it was the day I brought it home. I can’t help but wonder if it was treated with something to trigger blooming at the expense of new growth. Does anyone have an opinion on that?
There’s a chartreuse sweet potato that may step up and take over, and also an ‘Australia’ canna coming in…. But I really like mandevillas 🙂
Oh and a big basil that’s just about worn out its welcome. I never thought it would take off like that.
annual container planting
So that’s the news from the deck. I’ve been away for about a week so things have hopefully grown some since, but I’m pleased with the results so far. Yes, a little yellow might have brightened things up a bit, but my planting are always a little impulsive, so each year turns out a little different. Who knows, maybe next year all the grass will be back, or cannas will take over, we’ll see!

Viva la Tropicalismo!

“Tropicalismo” is so very ’90s but being in style was never my strong point. I still love the tropical look with big leaves and bright colors and lush happy growth right during the months when everything else looks a little tired and faded. Too big elephant ears, too bright cannas and just a little too tall grasses always make me smile when the bleeding hearts are dying in the heat. I even like the bright red salvia that is normally reserved for gas stations and trailer parks. Feel free to judge me, here’s a picture of the tropical bed last year.
tropicalismo planting
This was a new area that was the perfect match of big space, full sun, and no planting budget, so I pulled together the leftover canna roots, popped in a couple sweet potato cuttings, and scattered some annual seedlings and with plenty of water and fertilizer it all came together.
As usual this year I’ve fallen behind, and the tropical bed is still a weed infested patch of leftover perennials, a few nice salvias, and an appropriately bright knockout rose.
tropicalismo planting
I finally got around to weeding, mulching, and planting. It may seem like all is lost with such a late planting date, but the experience of a chronic procrastinator has taught me things will still work out fine. Also the late planting allowed several self sown red salvias and amaranth to make themselves known. All good things since I used up all the spare annuals when I expanded the front yard border.
So here it sits, still a little sparse, but ready to take on all the drought and heat summer throws its way.
tropicalismo planting
With any luck I’ll still have the same tastelessly colorful display as last year, minus a few of the exceptionally colorful and tacky tropicana cannas.
tropicalismo planting

Canna Virus

The bed expansion is coming along….. not as fast as it should but it’s progressing.  The plan is to go all along the front street border, widen the bed, thin a couple things out, weed, replant, and then mulch.  Each year I like to clear out a couple spots for cannas and other annuals, and since it’s almost July I better get a move on it before it’s too late.

Cannas are usually easy to grow, but in the past decade canna virus has become a serious problem due to the appearance of yellow streak virus.  CaYSV is the fancy name and it does exactly what it sounds like it does.  On a normally healthy green leaf it produces streaks of yellow.  Here’s a canna I was looking forward to adding to the garden, instead it will end up in the trash due to virus.canna virus

I got the canna in a trade and it was supposed to be a nice healthy banana canna and reach up to 12 feet tall… but it’s not to be.  I’ll get over it, but it seems like the plant you can’t have is the one you want most.

The yellow streak virus weakens the leaves and results in brown dead streaks.  Most of the cannas I see for sale have the virus, and Tropicana is one of the worst with green streaks showing up instead of yellow.  It’s a shame but hopefully with tissue culture and more effort in raising healthy plants we can get some healthy cannas back.